Thursday, August 28, 2008

Shades of yesterday and tomorrow.

What's the simplest way to create a distinctive automotive exterior? With an interesting pallette of paint! Today, automotive fashionistas are working hard on new hues that captivate the individualists among us. Low gloss levels, color-shifting metallic flakes, light-reactive and even light-emitting shades will hit dealer lots someday soon -- but many manufacturers have already bravely pushed the envelope by bringing interesting, experimental colors to market.

1997 Porsche 911 Turbo: Arena Red. I was 10 or 11 when I saw my first Arena 911 on the San Antonio Riverwalk. Bless my patient mother for not dragging me away from such a formative moment. I remember tracing the front fenders... watching the light pour into the soft curves toward the headlamps, where the rich paint seemed to swallow the light entirely.

1996 Dodge Copperhead Concept: Copperhead Orange. Is it cheating to include concept cars on this list? After all, they're almost all coated in moonshot hues far from production. No matter: the Copperhead's iconic orange paint received new life twelve years after its debut, when the 2006 Dodge Viper Coupe was available in a similar shade with the same name.

1996 Subaru Legacy: Cashmere Yellow. Like many awesome home-market trends, the Subaru Legacy's Cashmere Yellow hue was only available in Japan -- never in the United States. Cashmere's near-fluorescence begs a question: could Day-Glo sheetmetal be tomorrow's color trend?

1993 Honda delSol: Samba Green. My brother -- and many others -- called this "booger green." From an early age, I called it beautiful. Bright as it was polarizing, Samba served a niche market. For a certain breed of owner, Samba was destiny. If only today's thousand-beige Accord offered shoppers even a semblance of individuality.

1993 Mazda Miata: Montego Blue. One of the first mass-production color shifting paints was offered on this attainable everyday sports car, gifting trends to the masses instead of reserving advances for the elite. Want a closer look? Take a trip to any autocross -- Montego Miatas fight it out all across the country every weekend.

1995 Toyota Paseo: Light Iris.
Anyone raised in the era when magenta and teal reigned supreme won't admit that these pastel shades are a guilty pleasure. Trust me: they are. Toyota's tiny beachcomber was carefree enough to wear this shade. It goes without saying that this era has passed.

2003 Nissan Skyline GT-R: Midnight Purple III. Special metallic flakes brought green and gold hues forth from the purple basecoat. The shifting colors brought a dynamism and humanity to the Skyline's otherwise clinically angular sheetmetal. A Midnight GT-R is in motion, even when lying in wait.

2004 Mercedes-Benz SL: Almandine Black.Nothing may be more stately than a blacked-out Benz, but this special ebony added a slight violet tint to the mix to keep things interesting. The dramatic effect was more pronounced on MB's larger models, and the SL sedan wore Almandine well.

1997 Honda Civic Type-R: Championship White. What's more satisfying than a self-aggrandizing coat of paint? The Type-R was billed as the purist's Civic. Championship White alluded to that purity, but the shade was tinted with a hint of gold -- a statement of purpose; a promise to the competition.

1993 Toyota MR2: Steel Mist Grey. Today, Toyota's dismal greys are devoid of personality and flatly vapid. Back in the firm's heyday of fun cars, even the grey hues had a sense of purpose. SMG's bluish-purple tint aged well, and the color is now highly prized among buyers and collectors.

Color choice is subjective. My picks probably don't match yours. What colors catch your eye? Does the car you drive reflect your taste?

Many happy miles,